New Address

I have moved my blog to WordPress.org and it has a new address.  This blog will no longer have any new content and will eventually be closed down.  If you currently subscribe to my blog you will need to resubscribe to the new address ……at least I assume you do: if someone knows otherwise do please share with the group 🙂

 

Do please come over to my new site at http://www.doodlebags.net and say hello.

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The new blog has been styled to operate in a similar way to a website and I would love to know what you think of it.

Suit You, Sir

Yesterday I went to collect the second batch of fabric samples that I’m saving from landfill and, once again, I felt like a small child on Christmas Day: faced with sacks and boxes of beautiful fabric I didn’t know where to begin.

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I’m impatient to see what’s inside…….

I started by exploring the easiest box, one that contained large oblong pieces of fabric not attached to cardboard hangers.

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Inside I found an assortment of amazing textiles ranging from natural silks, woollens, cottons and linens, to some interesting and exotic synthetic concoctions.  Many of the larger samples had smaller pieces in other colour-ways pinned to them and so, as well as saving the fabrics from the tip, I have also salvaged a huge number of safety pins.

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Even the safety pins have a hint of luxury

Having reached the bottom of the first box and bagged up the majority of the contents to pass on elsewhere, I moved on to a box containing cardboard folders; it was gone midnight by this time and I should have been asleep, but sleep is of secondary concern when there’s fabric around.

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It was assumed that I wouldn’t want the folders as they only contained very small swatches of material glued onto cardboard; that I would leave them behind to be thrown away.  Instead I explained that I would recycle the cardboard, and loaded them into the car.

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The swatches are samples of suiting originally destined for places such as Saville Row and Jermyn Street in London and made from the most luxurious lightweight wool, many of them blended with silk by the feel of them.

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The fabric came away effortlessly from the cardboard without leaving any trace of glue behind, and as I continued to remove them, I realised they would make the most amazing patchwork quilt: they are pre-cut, all of a uniform size, and the muted greys, browns and blues would be perfect for my teenage son’s new room.

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I predict an elegant quilt with a masculine feel

I still have a mountain of fabric to sort through, but I am pleased with what I have achieved so far; instead of being thrown away, the folders have been broken down into their constituent parts and I am left with:

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a large pile of cardboard which will be recycled;

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a number of unused cards which, with the addition of a white pencil, will make great “chalk boards”;

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a pile of elastics that bound the folders, sure to come in useful one day (I hope you’re proud of me Dad!);

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hundreds of ready-cut patchwork pieces, destined to be a quilt.

I’ll let you know what else I discover as I explore the rest of my haul…..

Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width

I have a passion for fabric, but I didn’t realise how deep it ran until I began sorting through the contents of these bags.

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As you know, I rescue fabrics from landfill.  I loathe the thought of something being thrown away if there is a use for it elsewhere, so when I hear of fabrics that are on their way to the tip I feel compelled to step in and find someone who wants them.

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Whether it’s fabric that has sat unused in someone’s spare room for a number of years, or an upholsterer’s sample books that are no longer current, I guarantee I will find a home for it.

The benefits of my rescue missions are many:

  • people wishing to get rid of fabrics no longer need to organise their disposal, they simply contact me and I will collect them;
  • collection is swift which frees up valuable storage space;
  • schools and charities (along with a number of fellow craftspeople and textile artists) receive bundles of material to use;
  • I can boost my own fabric stocks by taking out a few pieces that catch my eye;
  • everything is kept out of landfill.
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Can you imagine this simply being thrown away? What a waste…..

Usually I deal with sample books which I spend hours disassembling before redistributing the fabric swatches, or remnants of material that were originally destined for a long-abandoned sewing project by their owner.  However, Friday’s haul was a completely different kettle of fish, and altogether more exciting.

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It’s just as well I have a large car!

The bags I collected were from a fabric merchant who supplies the top designers and London stores and the quality and variety of the contents was breathtaking.  The pieces of material measure approximately 50cm x 30cm (and sometime much larger), and include jersey, cotton and silk, along with a variety of synthetics.

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The swatches themselves are beautiful in their own right: I have kept a couple like this to display on my workroom wall

I couldn’t wait to sort through the bags and with every new piece of material I uncovered, came another exclamation of joy and wonder at its beauty.  A bit OTT?  Perhaps, but you should have seen it, felt it.  The colours were stunning; the texture and feel of the silks, pure luxury.

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An amazing selection of retro inspired silks from Italy

As I mentioned, I usually keep a very small amount of the fabrics that I rescue to use in my work and pass the rest on to good homes; however, I didn’t want to let any of this go.  Not one piece!  Even if I couldn’t think of a use, I found myself justifying keeping it purely because of its quality and beauty.

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Could you part with fabrics like this?

If you have seen the inside of our house then you will know that it simply isn’t possible to fit any more material in and so, reluctantly, I am passing the bulk of the fabric on as usual.

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Quantities of silk samples destined for GCSE textile projects

Two sacks have already left the house and others are on their way to a number of schools, a youth art project, and a few local crafts people (including one lovely not-so-local lady who will be receiving a large bag full the next time we go to Wales).  In addition, my daughters have syphoned off a carrier bag full for use at their dad’s house (they would have taken a bin bag had I let them…….where did they get their passion for fabric from I wonder?) and there is a bag of jersey and woollen samples for Richard’s mum to use in her rag rug projects at Rosemary’s Rag Rugs.

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The photos don’t do the colours justice

I am due to collect more samples next week and am looking forward to the delight of opening the bags: it’s almost as much fun as working with the fabrics themselves, which I will start to do……….when I have finished sorting……

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Pronunciation: /ˈtwɪt(ə)n/

WordPress tells me that my blog reached its first birthday today, and to celebrate I’m going off on a tangent and talking about something totally unrelated: I’m taking a trip down memory lane to revisit a familiar word from my childhood………….twitten.

According to Wikipedia, “twitten is a Sussex dialect word, used in both East and West Sussex, for a path or alleyway”.

In terms of its origin, the Oxford Dictionaries, believes it to be from “the early 19th century: perhaps related to Low German twiete ‘alley, lane'”.

A twitten in Lewes, East Sussex

A twitten in Lewes, East Sussex

Unfamiliar to people outside of Sussex, questions about it’s meaning pop up on forums and blogs from time to time; there are so many twittens in Brighton they even produced a map:

Twitten Map

However, as usually happens over time, the meaning has morphed with technology and, according to the Urban Dictionary, twitten can mean “being smitten by someone you know only through following them on Twitter”.

The modern meaning doesn’t work for me though, and the word will always take me back to those idyllic days of early childhood when, as a child of about 4 or 5 years old, I would race ahead of my mum down a particular twitten in Sidley which led to the street that my friend Dawn Styles lived in.  I found these alleyways so exciting at such a young age.

Like children everywhere I used to enjoy finding places to hide when walking into town so that I could jump out and surprise my mum when she walked by: having had my own children do the same to me, it immediately dawned on me that my mum was feigning her surprise and shock at my sudden appearance from nowhere.  I truly believed it to be real at the time; such is the innocence of a young child.  No doubt my children will realise my deception when they repeat the experience with their offspring.

Walking down the hill to Sevenoaks station this morning, I found one such hiding place: being on my own and perhaps a little too old to jump out and surprise anyone anyway, I chose to write about it instead.

Happy birthday little blog.

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The sight of these steps transported me back to those idyllic days of early childhood

An Eye for a Bargain

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With the 2013 boot fair season under way, I thought it would be the perfect time to reawaken my blog and pose the question:

What is it that drives me to get out of bed at 6.30am on a Sunday morning during the summer months?

The prospect of finding a bargain at my local boot fair, that’s what.

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I don’t venture into “real shops”, haven’t done so for many years, always preferring second hand sources, and I still only have one brand new item of clothing in my wardrobe.  My approach is partly influenced by money: the less I spend, the more spare cash there is to pay for days out and treats for the family.  My main motivation however, is that I was brought up going to jumble sales and wearing second hand clothes, and the concept of reusing what someone else no longer wants and thereby preventing it from being thrown away, is fundamental to who I am and central to my approach to life in general.

Jumbles sales, whilst a frequent event when I was a child, are rare these days and boot fairs have replaced them as a way of getting rid of your old clothes, toys, books and household items.  We are fortunate in Tunbridge Wells to have a number of local boot fairs which are well run and well attended by sellers.  Stall numbers vary according to the weather and on a sunny day the field will be full of stalls, providing plenty of choice for the buyer.

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I try to go to the boot fair every week.  My children have inherited my enthusiasm for second hand shopping and are eager to come with me to spend a portion of their pocket money: last Sunday the three youngest each spent less than £1 and came away clutching a number of soft toys to add to their growing collections.

It’s very rare for me to come away from a boot fair empty handed and I will usually leave with a grin on my face having found at least one thing on my list.  This is what’s currently on there:

*  books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series for my teenage son
*  various titles in the Ladybird fairytales series for my girls
*  a bikini or swimsuit for my 12 year old daughter
*  a pretty jug to stand my collection of knitting needles in
*  sandals for my youngest son
*  buttons, zips and interesting fabrics (obviously!)

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I love finds like this

If I’m patient then I know I will find what I’m looking for, and I think that’s the key: eventually everything on my list will appear on someone’s stall, provided I keep looking.  A case in point: I recently flouted my own rule and went online to buy a fold-up table for use at craft fairs; low and behold, what did I see  a week later at the boot fair?  Exactly!  A similar table, in very good condition, for a mere £3.

Take a look at the wealth of goodies that I picked up last year: pretty much everything you see in the following photographs was bought at boot fairs held between May and August 2012, with the occasional Freegle find thrown in for good measure.

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3 wetsuits (£1 – £2 each); 4 boogie boards (2 @ £2 each, 2 @ 20 pence each!); swimming costumes and trunks for all 4 children (£1 each); sunhats and sunglasses (50 pence each); 6 beach towels (50 pence each); various buckets and spades (20 pence each); 5 pairs of beach shoes (£1 each); windbreak (free, via Freegle)

We play a lot of sport in our family and, with equipment being so costly, it’s always useful to find it second hand, such as this racquet bag for £1 and a brand new Carlton badminton racquet for £2.  A lot of our sports clothing also comes from boot fairs, which is a particularly economical way of buying it bearing in mind the children can grow out of it in a matter of weeks.  My favourite sporting find however, is the rounders bat which we bought for 50 pence; I’m still on the hunt for a stoolball bat though…….

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The secret of successful boot fair shopping, in my opinion, is to have a really good rummage; quite often you will find a gem hidden at the bottom of the pile or in a box which no one else has bothered to look through.  It can be tiring, and disheartening sometimes if you fail to unearth a treasure, but perseverance pays off in the long run.

I rarely go to the boot fair looking for clothes for myself but, somehow, I always manage to come away having bought something.  The problem is, with prices as low as £1 or even 50 pence, I find it virtually impossible to resist.  There’s never a guarantee I’ll find something, but if I see a stallholder of similar size to me then I automatically stop to look through the clothes, just in case they are selling something I can’t live without………looking through my wardrobe, there seems to have been an awful lot I couldn’t live without!

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Who could resist a pair of Tinkerbell fairy wings?

The dreadful thing is, even though the clothes are second hand, I have become a label snob: I will forgo the dress from New Look in favour of one from Hobbs and I will shun the trousers by George at Asda for a pair by Joseph.

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The Hobbs t-shirt still had the price label on, for £35; I bought it for £1

Some people don’t like the idea of wearing second hand clothes, but everything can be washed; personally, I tend to avoid stalls if the seller smokes: as a non-smoker I simply don’t like the smell and find it hard to remove.

For me, the economics of buying second hand speaks for itself.  Take a look at the quality of the clothes I have bought from boot fairs over the last few years: there is no way I could wear brands like this if I had to buy them new.

My wardrobe consists of items from Hobbs, Coast, Great Plains, Phase Eight, Joseph, Monsoon, Jigsaw, Kew, Laura Ashley, Zara, Fat Face, O’Neill, Boden………

My wardrobe consists of items from Hobbs, Coast, Great Plains, Phase Eight, Joseph, Monsoon, Jigsaw, Kew, Laura Ashley, Zara, Fat Face, O’Neill, White Stuff, Boden………

Shoes and boots are usually plentiful and I have amassed a handsome collection over the years.  Once again they are all quality brands from makers such as Russell & Bromley or Clarks, and the ridiculous thing is that, when the heels wear down, it would be significantly cheaper to buy another pair from the next boot fair rather than have them re-heeled.

I have lost count of the number of compliments I have received for my shoes: my who collection cost less than one brand new pair

I have lost count of the number of compliments I have received for my shoes: my whole collection cost less than one brand new pair

My most extravagant boot fair purchase was the lace-up black boots: they were a hefty £10, but £10 is nothing for a quality pair of leather boots, is it?!

My most extravagant boot fair purchase was the lace-up black boots at a hefty £10, but £10 is nothing for a quality pair of leather boots, is it?!

People unfamiliar to boot fairs are often aghast when I tell them that something I am wearing cost £1, that a total outfit including the shoes was less than £5.  I have bought everything from summer to winter clothing, coats to swimwear.  Through trial and error I have developed an eye for what fits and what suits me, but I still make the occasional mistake in which case I give it to a charity shop or offer it on Freegle.

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Buying coats on a sunny day seems an odd thing to do, but you’ll be glad you did when the winter arrives

Boot fair shopping is an inexpensive way of trying a new style: experiment a little and buy something you’d never normally wear. You might hate it but will have only wasted a few pounds; however you might love it and have discovered the new you in the process.  It’s also a very economical way of buying something for a one-off occasion, such as this outfit for a vintage fair.  Then again, I’m sorely tempted to wear this one again……

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The skirt was a size 20 when I bought it; a few alterations and I had a bargain priced 1960s mini

Another altered item was this skirt, originally a dress: by simply removing the camisole section and using it to make a couple of pockets, someone’s cast-off has become one of the favourite pieces in my wardrobe.

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Teamed with other boot fair finds: a Zara vest, Fat Face cardigan, H&M jacket and leather boots

Second hand doesn’t have to mean sub standard and it’s a great way to expand your wardrobe for very little cost but without looking as if you’re on a budget.  Sometimes you can even make money: I once found a £5 note in the pocket of a pair of jeans when I was trying them on at home.  They had only cost me £1.50.

Take a look in your local paper (or online) to find the date and venue for your local boot fair, set your alarm (if you’re lucky it will be an afternoon event) and start rummaging for bargains.  Let me know what you find…….

Get Your Skates On: Christmas is Coming

“Experience the thrill and fun of skating on real ice in the beautiful Calverley Grounds this Christmas.”

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Tunbridge Wells are once again laying on ice skating in Calverley Grounds.  The ice rink opened on Friday 23 November and skating runs until Monday 7th January 2013.  You can see some great photos of the opening ceremony at Tunbridge Wells Life and to find out more, visit their website or Facebook page.

Ice skating is a popular pastime, particularly since the advent of Dancing on Ice, and Christmas is the perfect time to don a pair of skates.  Why not imagine you are Robin Cousins or Torvil and Dean or if, like me, you struggle to stay upright on the ice,  simply soak up the atmosphere at the rink-side cafe and listen to the music whilst watching your children skate.

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Children can visit Santa

This is the second year that there has been an ice rink in Tunbridge Wells and this year it is bigger and better, with the added attraction alongside the rink of traditional style wooden chalets housing local independent businesses selling a wide range of quality gifts, just perfect for Christmas.

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Doodlebags hired one of the chalets over the weekend of 1st/2nd December and we were blessed with the most amazing weather which made it a joy to be outdoors.  Admittedly the temperature barely went above 0 degrees for the entire weekend, but the brilliant sunshine put a smile on everyone’s face and encouraged everyone outside.

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It was cold!!!

Being the first year that the chalets have been at the ice skating meant that many members of the public were unaware we would be there and consequently came out without the intention of shopping.  However, speaking for ourselves, enough people bought to make the experience financially worthwhile and as word spreads then business will continue to build for the traders week on week and year on year.

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Stunning lighting made for a very festive atmosphere

I met some wonderful people across the weekend, organisers, customers and stallholders alike and I would like to tell you a little bit about the other businesses occupying the chalets whilst we were there.

Spade and Spoon:  The delicious smell of melting raclette (a semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese) wafted across from Spade and Spoon who were selling a selection of take away foods and rinks, with ingredients sourced from across Kent and Sussex.

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Deliart:  Inspirational and humourous phrases adorn the plaques made by Deliart, who are able to make to your specific requirements should you not see exactly what you are looking for.

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RSPB:  The RSPB do an amazing job in raising awareness of the problems faced by birds and wildlife and the work needed to maintain certain species within the UK.  It was wonderful to hear the enthusiasm with which the RSPB representative spoke about wildlife: an enthusiasm echoed by the children he spoke to and which in turn encouraged parents to invest in a membership which would help in protecting birds and the environment.  “The need for an effective bird conservation organisation has never been greater.  The RSPB could not exist without its supporters and members. Whether you join us, give a donation, purchase items from us or undertake voluntary work, your support is vital to the future of birds and the places where they live.”

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Cute as a Button:  Sporting the tagline of “Handmade with Love”, Cute as a Button have an extensive range of bespoke gifts for any occasion, with the added option of having your gift personalised.  Catering for all age ranges, tastes and styles, you are bound to fall in love with what they have to offer.

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Temper Temper:  Who doesn’t like chocolate?  Temper Temper are masters of their craft and the quality of their chocolate is simply superb.  They also run chocolate making parties for both adults and children and having seen the fun my daughter had whilst attending a friend’s party held at Temper Temper’s premises in Southborough, Tunbridge Wells, I can attest to the excellence of what they do.

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Wood-Knit-Bee:  As the name suggests, Wood-Knit-Bee specialise in objects derived from wood, wool and bees.  To quote their website: “We source our products from ethical companies and individuals implementing sustainable solutions to environmental and social concerns.”  In and around their chalet they had a display of delightful wooden reindeer and a wide selection of bee-derived products including beeswax candles, honey, balms and snacks.

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Lynne Meek, Kate Hasted, Caro Spinette:  A wonderful collective of three very talented artists working in different mediums.

Lynne Meek:  As Lynne herself explains, an animal’s character can be found in its eyes; as an animal portrait artist she she is able to capture her subject’s personality perfectly in her portraits.  Working to commission her skill is unmistakable.  Contact her at Lynnemeek@btinternet.com

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Kate Hasted:  Kate is a textile print, fashion and accessories designer, and her stunning designs can be seen on her scarves and jewellery; you can even buy some of the silk off-cuts to use in your own textile and crafting projects.

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Caro Spinette:  A Tunbridge Wells based artist, Caro‘s hand painted ceramics are simply beautiful; the objects enhanced by her artistry include tea pots, plates, cake stands and tea cups.

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Alphabetty Designs:  To quote their own business cards: “Alphabetty Designs offers a fabulous, stylish organic educational gift or the perfect eco-friendly choice for today’s parents – our t-shirts and bags are 100% organic and eco-friendly with a hand stitched alphabet eco-fi felt applique.”

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My First Boutique:  With the cost of clothing a child escalating year on year, what better way to reduce the cost than to buy quality pre-loved children’s wear?  With labels such as Mini Boden, Monsoon, Joules, Gap and Ralph Lauren, and with an age range spanning 12 months to 12 years, you’re bound to find the perfect outfit for your little one.  Based in Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, My First Boutique also stock maternity wear.

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The view from my chalet after sunset: stunning!

The Ice skating is open every day from now until Monday 7th January (except Christmas day) from 10.30am until 9pm.  Whilst some of the above traders may not be there again (unfortunately Doodlebags is one of those), you are guaranteed to find some excellent businesses occupying the chalets and I would urge you to show your support for independent local businesses by making Calverley Grounds your first port of call when Christmas shopping in Tunbridge Wells.

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You can find Doodlebags at Hildenborough Farmers’ Market every Tuesday morning, at the monthly Artisan Market in Canterbury and on Facebook; if shopping before Christmas, you can also find us at Saint Hill Manor on Sunday 16th December.

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Heartfelt

I’d like to introduce you to Chris Birbeck:

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Chris, whose Facebook Page is Heartfelt by Chris Birbeck, is a fellow member of SEAS whose skill and imagination manifests itself in every piece of her work and who is one of the most inspiring textile artists I know.Image

SEAS (South East ArtistS) is a group of artists and craftmakers from Deal and surrounding areas, and at their recent Arts & Crafts Festive Fair at St George’s Hall, there was an almost permanent cluster of people around Chris’s stall, testament to the popularity of her work.

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I first fell in love with Chris’ work when sharing an Open Studios with her at Rosemary’s Rag Rugs in 2011.  Open Studios is an annual event run by SEAS whereby artists (including painters, potters, textile artists and photographers) open their studios and display their work to the public; the next SEAS Open Studios is on the weekend of 24th/25th November and is a superb opportunity to see an artist’s work in more detail.

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The list of Chris’ talents is seemingly endless: she has a wonderfully creative imagination plus an enviably good eye for colour and is simply overflowing with creative ideas…..she is also fortunate in being blessed with the skills to execute them.

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Chris donates all profits from the sale of her work to Cancer Research and is equally generous in sharing her knowledge and ideas with customers and fellow stallholders alike, which makes a refreshing change in a world in which many people are so guarded about their work.

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As you can tell, I am a huge fan of Chris’s work and I would love her skills to receive the recognition they deserve.  Do go and visit her Facebook page to admire her work and say hello as I know she’d love to meet you.

Trick or Treat

Halloween wasn’t something we celebrated during my childhood, but for the past few years I have organised a party for my own children and their friends: this year we held a pre-Halloween party, one night early.

Halloween is an excuse to indulge in fancy dress in our house and I get involved just as much as the children, as this selection of costumes from the last few years shows:

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Looking back through photographs it’s interesting to see how the children’s costumes have evolved, and to see just how much use you can get from one black leotard.

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We decorate the house with toy cauldrons, frogs, spiders, bats and skulls, and this year we haven’t even had to bother with fake cobwebs as there are plenty of real ones, especially draped over the home made witch’s broom which has been hanging on the wall continuously for the last 3 years!

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Made from a branch and some twigs from the local woods

Pumpkins are a must, of course, and we all get involved in the carving process though the children tend to get bored of removing the seeds and flesh, so there was a distinct advantage to the small pumpkins that Richard bought this year:

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I must remember to buy a set of pumpkin carving tools: much easier to use than wielding a selection of kitchen knives

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Designs always vary: this year we had a cat, vampire, computer smiley, spider and Rebecca’s choice of surface decoration

When it came time to light the pumpkins, we had the usual problem of getting the candles level, so next year I will definitely be using this tip from Jackie at Happy Hooligans where she recommends cutting a hole in the base of the pumpkin as opposed to slicing the top off:

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Click on the image to go to the Happy Hooligan’s blog
(image courtesy of Happy Hooligans)

Refreshments are themed: to drink there was blood (blackcurrant), bat’s urine (elderflower), zombie spit (orange)…..yes, I know, gross!…….but it is Halloween; to eat there were brains (mashed potatoes), severed fingers (skinny sausages), scrapings of flesh (chicken nuggets) and maggots (baked beans).  Then of course there’s pudding, which this year was our all-time favourite: pumpkin jellies.  No…….not pumpkin flavoured jellies (ooh, can you imagine?!) but these:

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They are a little labour intensive, but great fun, so if you fancy trying them yourself then the following pictures may prove useful:

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Slice the top from each orange

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Scoop out all the flesh (reserve to make fresh orange juice); be sure to take care at the base of the orange to avoid making a hole in the skin

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Make up the jelly in the normal way: choose a contrasting colour for maximum effect

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Pour jelly into oranges and refrigerate: 1 packet of jelly fills approx 4 medium oranges

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When the jelly is set, carve out the pumpkin faces

All too soon the party is over and it’s time for the children’s friends to go home with a party bag (to make up for the fact that I don’t let them go trick or treating…..I know the practice has grown in popularity here in the UK, but I’m just not keen on allowing my children to knock on people’s doors asking for sweets):

Then all that’s left is the removal of thick layers of make up and several hours of brushing out wild back-combed hair!

Roll on Halloween 2013……..

Bagsy This One

When I first started Doodlebags, my youngest daughter (then aged 8) announced that my bags were boring and that I needed to make them “way cooler”.  Not very subtle perhaps, but I welcomed the criticism, did as I was told and now she covets every bag I make.  These days I hesitate to show her any of my new makes as she continuously asks whether she can buy them from me; as a result I have promised to make her so many bags and purses that if I ever fulfill those promises I will be sewing non stop for a month.

Originally intended for sale, this bag proved so popular with my daughter that I presented it to her on our most recent trip to Wales.

Like all other working mothers I juggle numerous responsibilities and I loathe the fact that I rarely find the time to make anything for my children, so last weekend I decided to set aside a couple of hours to sew some toys, turning to my favourite sewing book for inspiration: Easy Embroidery by Lis Paludan.

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I bought this book in 1978 when I was 12 years old, and over the years I have used it to make toys for myself as well as gifts for family and friends.  Since having my own children I have used the book to help them learn how to sew and they have made their own toys using the very same patterns I used when I was a child.

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My now 12 year old making a felt doll when she was 7.

The finished doll and the section of the book it comes from.

The children and I have made a number of the dolls from the book, and King Kitty (minus his yellow felt crown) on the extreme left, is one of my youngest son’s all time favourite toys.

My youngest daughter asked me to make her a doll that looked like me (note the grey streaks in her hair) whom she christened Toy Toy Mummy.

My children love to sew and all learnt when they were very young.  There are plenty of children’s sewing courses available, but as their parents I am certain that the majority of us are more than capable of showing them the very basics, starting with sewing cards and a shoelace and moving on to basic stitches and elementary toy construction (using felt to start with to avoid fraying seams).  If you yourself don’t know how to sew, why not learn whilst teaching your children?  At a young age children don’t care whether stitches are even or seams are straight, they just like to learn a new skill and make something themselves.

My 4 sewing Easter chicks several years ago.

Easter chicks decorated using the children’s own designs: mine was the one with the bling and the funky hairdo!

Whoops, I’ve strayed off topic……returning to the toys I made recently for the children, I opted to start with my harshest critic and asked her to look at the Easy Embroidery book and come up with a design.  She chose to design a cat which, using some sample book scraps, I translated into a flat cat called Squish and a padded version called Stuffed.

Squish and Stuffed.

My youngest son and I collaborated to make Doggy Brown (don’t you just love the names children come up with for their toys?!) to add to his vast collection of toy dogs that fill his bed.

Doggy Brown.

Whilst my teenage son is still happy to receive toys as presents, he wasn’t interested in having one made for him this time round, so my final make was a surprise for my eldest daughter of a tortoise (as with all the others, intentionally lopsided and quirky) which she called Georgina.

Georgina.

My children are always complimentary about my work and very supportive in my attempts to make Doodlebags a success.  At the end of the weekend my daughters came to me with some ideas of things I could make, and so that I didn’t forget them I suggested they write them down along with some accompanying pictures.  I have dedicated this delightful notebook by Chris of Heartfelt by Chris Birbeck to their designs and have asked them to add anything new as and when they think of it.

Some of their designs are viable, others less so, but it’s wonderful that they want to be involved in my work, and some of their ideas will definitely be making their way into the Doodlebags‘ product range by the end of the year.

My design book alongside the one used by the girls.

My youngest daughter has labelled me “the best sewer in the world” which, as with any compliment from one’s children, is a huge honour……..assuming of course that she is referring to my needlework skills and not my hitherto unknown status as a main drainage pipe!